Get Out’s Place at the Golden Globe Awards: A Comedy in a “Sunken Place”


Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Get Out should definitely be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, but the film is not so much a comedy as it is a drama film (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Dominic Arenas

Get Out should definitely be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, but the film is not so much a comedy as it is a drama film (Courtesy of Flickr).

A horror movie about the black minority experience, Get Out, will compete as a musical/comedy, not as a drama motion picture, at the 75th Golden Globe Awards. Although some aspects of film are comedic, some moviegoers are surprised by the placement. Though “Best Motion Picture-Comedy” is a prestigious award, branding Get Out as a comedy makes its themes dismissive. Unlike others during the awards season, The Golden Globe Awards divides the best picture nominees into two distinct genres: drama and comedy/musical.

Jordan Peele, from the hilarious sketch comedy series “Key & Peele,” made his directorial debut with this thriller on the horrors of racism. The film documents an interracial couple’s visit to the woman’s white parents. Reluctant to go, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) slowly realizes that there is something oddly bone-chilling about the racial and social structure of Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) neighborhood. Peele exposes something that is as apparent and invisible as air. He addresses the notion of liberal racism in the film, featuring adults who say they would have voted for Obama for a third term and aging baby boomers draped in white guilt. Get Out getting the comedy nod plays into this irony of a post-racial America. Being a minority in a society that “does not see color” is a horror.

The black/minority experience, which Get Out addresses, is a nuanced situation that is comical, horrific, thrilling and (sadly) true. White liberals shocked Donald Trump became president still consistently name-check black athletes, proving that racial prejudice and discrimination continue to exist.

For Nevin Kelly-Fair, FCLC ’19, a film and TV major and talented director, Get Out isn’t a flat-out comedy. Kelly-Fair, whose previous short films have been selected for the Cannes International Film Festival Student Filmmaker Initiative and screened at the Princeton Student Film Festival, believes the film is a perfect representation of a country blinded by an all-encompassing and destructive anger.

“Over the past year, comedy has become more important to political commentary, and, if used properly, it can both be entertaining and get to the truth of issues that might be difficult to talk about in a direct and ‘professional’ way,” he said. “Peele uses the character of the out of touch white liberal to show how this is something much scarier and racist than just a joke.

This new form of comedy uses jokes to show the scariness of political perspectives.” Since Kelly-Fair saw many movies this year and there are millennials who “don’t see color” (which is a lot), he doesn’t think Get Out is among the best movies of the year. However, he does note that Peele’s thriller is a perfect depiction of the “collective frustration of a country.” “This is a film that will be remembered 50 years down the line and discussed as a encapsulation of the times,” he said. “I’m sure (Get Out) will be studied from the nuanced perspective of a future generation.”

Its placement in the comedy category dismisses the harsh truth of the black/minority experience in society. Communications and media studies lecturer at FCRH, Karen Williams, said comedy is often viewed as a “low-brow” form in relation to drama.

“Get Out might be part of a great tradition of American satire, and therefore truly fit into the category of comedy, but if comedy isn’t taken seriously, then such a categorization diminishes the extraordinary power of Peele’s film,” she said. Williams, who teaches “Understanding Film,” believes Get Out’s nod as a “comedy” was due to Peele’s household appeal as a comedian.

“I think because Jordan Peele was known for his sketch comedy show, this became the frame by which mainstream audiences were sold the film and read the film,” she said. For Dr. Brandeise Monk-Payton, assistant professor of communications and media studies, who specializes in the history of African American media representation, deeming Get Out a comedy is “crude.”

“While I don’t know the industry specifics about how Get Out ended up in the Comedy/Musical category as opposed to Drama, I do think that such placement will allow the film to have a better chance at actually winning the Golden Globe. Categorizing the film as a comedy might seem crude,” she said. “Such an experimental mix of genres should be celebrated, in spite of constraints that might be placed on a film by Hollywood. There is a long history of ‘dark’ humor that exposes and comments on societal ills. Satire is frequently utilized to interrogate violence. I see Get Out as a whimsically grotesque meditation on race relations and antiblackness in the contemporary moment.”

The decision to categorize by genre (spoiler alert) is much like the film’s antagonist, Rose Armitage, preference of cereal consumption. Armitage is the typical white girl who does hot yoga and buys groceries at Whole Foods. As the movie reaches its climax, Peele cuts to a scene of Rose eating Fruit Loops and sipping milk. The Golden Globes will always have difficulty classifying multi-genre films when it inherently uses genre categories to divide equally deserving comedy and drama movies for best picture.

The last “comedy” movie to get an odd categorization from the Golden Globes was The Martian. After The Martian’s win in 2016, the Golden Globes vowed to “ensure the issue does not rear its head” by not including dramas with comedic overtones (in the musical/comedy categories). And since the Golden Globes is not TSA, they failed to get things done again in 2018.

Get Out should get the nods alongside other dramas like Ladybird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Not to diminish the brilliance of these dramas, but if the two don’t win they’ll exist alongside the list of critically acclaimed movies that slowly fizzle out of mainstream existence after March. Whether it wins or not, Get Out will forever be the emblem of the social climate of our current “post-racial” America.


Dominic Arenas, FCRH ’18, is a digital technologies and emerging media major from San Francisco, California.